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Kai Sotto sees upside in latest Gilas pool, compares it to 2014 batch

In the few times Kai Sotto was able to watch Gilas Pilipinas scrimmage twice and train, the youthful Filipino giant is very optimistic that the latest batch of players in the national players are up to the task for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

For one, compared to the 2014 Gilas team that relied mostly on “small ball” play, given the undersized roster that then included two-time Best Asian point guard Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, along with wingmen Jeff Chan, Paul Lee and Gabe Norwood, this year's pool consists of taller players, who are versatile enough and can also shoot from the perimeter.

Kai Sotto (right) FIBA PHOTO

“I think the potential of this team is high, especially if you look at the players because we have a lot of different weapons and tools offensively and defensively,” Sotto said during his guest appearance at the Playitright TV, a Youtube Sports channel hosted by veteran sports analyst Quinito Henson and Dyan Castillejo.

“During the time of the Gilas from before (in 2014), at the time of my godfather RDO (Ranidel de Ocampo), we had Jayson Castro also, and they were more of (playing) small ball and the guards were the main players,” he added.

In the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Gilas, playing in Seville, Spain, gave world-class opponents Croatia, Argentina, Greece and Puerto Rico scary moments, before losing in narrow margins.

Gilas then closed the tournament with an 81-79 overtime win over Senegal, marking the first high mark for the country in the world stage since posting a 2-5 ledger in the 1974 FIBA World Cup in Puerto Rico.

In this latest Gilas iteration, the 21-year-old Sotto believes the team has a taller front court that consists of a more seasoned June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, who are both gunning for a third straight World Cup appearance in their respective basketball careers.

Throw in Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, who will serve as the Philippines' naturalized player, along with additional big man from the pool like Sotto's former Gilas youth teammate, big man AJ Edu and versatile forward Jamie Malonzo, the 7-foot-3 Filipino feels they have the size to contend in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

But then again, Sotto emphasized that basketball remains a five-man game and definitely, to earn a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics, Gilas must play as one, solid unit.

“At the end of the day, we just have to stay together till the end,” said Sotto, who is currently undergoing rehab due to back spasms, which he sustained in his final game in the NBA Summer League over two weeks ago.

With Clarkson set to arrive by Aug. 8 in Manila, Sotto expects the NBA star, who just recently re-signed with the Jazz for a three-year, US$55 million contract extension, to lead Gilas in the World Cup.

“I think JC will still play 100 percent for the national team, that's why he's an elite NBA player because of his skill and mentality,” he said.

“It's no secret that he's our best player in the team because he will help us a lot, and knowing that a lot of the attention will be on JC, but as the guys behind him, it's our job to help him,” explained the current Hiroshima Dragonflies slotman in the Japan B.League.

“Again, basketball is a 5-on-5 game, a team game, so it's just a matter of helping each other out, and it would still be good because we have a lot of time to prepare for the team.”

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Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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